Is there a hosepipe ban in my area? How to check local rules – NationalWorld

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Extreme UK weather, including multiple heatwaves and drought conditions, have led Yorkshire Water, Thames Water and several other companies to introduce hosepipe bans
A drought has been declared for some parts of England – in a move that’s set to trigger stricter controls on water use.
It comes amid another heatwave in the UK with the Met Office introducing level 3 amber extreme heat warnings for much of England and Wales between Thursday and Sunday (11 to 14 August).
Parts of the South West, parts of southern and central England, and the East of England are to be moved into drought status, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said on Friday.
The change could lead to more measures such as hosepipe bans, however, the Environment Agency has reassured the public that essential water supplies are safe.
It comes amid another heatwave in the UK with the Met Office introducing level 3 amber extreme heat warnings for much of England and Wales between Thursday and Sunday (11 to 14 August).
The hot weather is coinciding with drought conditions across much of the UK, with very little rainfall forecast to fall in the wake of the driest July since 1935.
It has forced several water companies, including Yorkshire Water, Thames Water, Southern Water, South East Water and Welsh Water, to announce hosepipe bans that are going to affect millions of people.
The Southern Water ban has already come into force for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
So, what are hosepipe bans – and how can you check whether you’re getting one in your area?
When water becomes scarcer than usual, water companies can restrict what we use water for.
They can tell when water is becoming scarce by monitoring reservoir or river levels.
In periods of prolonged drought these levels can drop away, forcing water companies to balance our water needs with those of the environment.
While water companies say the UK is highly unlikely to completely run out of water, they say they sometimes have to implement bans because it can take longer to treat water and move it through the system during prolonged summer dry spells – like the one we’re currently experiencing.
Hot weather can also lead to greater water consumption as people drink and shower more, fill up swimming pools or water their plants more regularly – all of which places further strain on the system.
For example, Yorkshire Water said it had to pump 200 million litres more water than usual when high temperatures were recorded on 11 July – the equivalent of the daily demand of Leeds.
Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, water companies have legal powers to restrict how water is used.
Anyone ignoring these rules could be prosecuted in a criminal court and fined a maximum of £1,000 – although water companies say they prefer “education over enforcement”.
Southern Water has even urged its customers to report anyone not following the rules to its customer services team.
UK hosepipe bans are not common, but scientists warn hotter, drier summers could become more frequent due to climate change.
Before the Southern Water hosepipe ban was announced, the last set of water restrictions to have been imposed in the UK were during the summer-long heatwave of 2018.
Seven million households in the North West of England and Northern Ireland were forced to temporarily ditch their hosepipes.
Scotland very rarely has to introduce such restrictions.
Hosepipe bans have only been implemented in the country on two occasions over the last 50 years – during the summers of 1976 and 1995.
Hosepipe bans can be brought in when water companies deem their area to be in a drought, i.e. a prolonged spell of dry weather that has affected water supplies for agriculture, the environment and human consumption.
Under these circumstances, you will be unable to use hosepipes or sprinklers to:
If the drought becomes ‘severe’, commercial premises can see their water usage restricted.
For example, they won’t be able to water any outdoor plants.
And if it gets to the stage where a public emergency is declared, households may have their water usage rationed to the extent that they have to fill up bottles at community hubs and only flush the loo a few times per day.
Southern Water introduced a hosepipe ban for its customers in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on 5 August.
It says the restrictions are aimed at protecting habitats in the River Itchen and the River Test, which run through Winchester and Southampton respectively.
Dr Alison Hoyle, Southern Water’s director of risk and compliance, said the move had been carefully considered by the water company but was deemed to be a “responsible step” in light of below average river flows.
Both rivers are 25% lower than they should be for the time of year, with Dr Hoyle saying the hosepipe ban would allow these levels to recover.
It’s the first hosepipe ban in the area since 2012.
South East Water restrictions will come into effect from midnight on Friday (12 August).
Households in Kent and East Sussex will have a hosepipe ban introduced until further notice.
In a statement on its website, South East Water said it had been forced to take action after the South East had just 8% of the rainfall it typically gets in July.
“This has been a time of extreme weather conditions across the UK,” the statement said.
“The demand for water this summer has broken all previous records, including the Covid lockdown heatwave.
“We have been producing an additional 120 million litres of water a day to supply our customers, which is the equivalent of supplying a further four towns the size of Maidstone or Eastbourne, daily.”
The company added that it wanted to make sure it could maintain supplies for “essential use and to protect the environment”.
According to the Met Office, the South East and central southern England both recorded just 5mm of rain in July – the driest July for the regions since official records began in 1836.
Welsh Water became the third company to announce hosepipe restrictions.
Coming in from Friday 19 August, the ban covers Pembrokeshire and some adjoining parts of Carmarthenshire in South West Wales, including Pendine and Laugharne.
The not-for-profit company revealed it has already had to tanker in water from surrounding areas and has also had to increase the number of teams it has looking for leaks from pipes.
Thames Water has announced a hosepipe ban but has not yet given any details about when it is set to come into force or whether it will cover its entire service area.
The company serves 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley.
It has already had to hand out bottled water to the village of Northend, Oxfordshire after it was cut off by a fault in supply infrastructure at the Stokenchurch Reservoir.
While it has managed to “improve the situation”, the supplier says water pressure is likely to be low for people in the area.
Yorkshire Water has become the fifth company in England and Wales to announce a hosepipe ban as Britons continue to swelter through hot and dry conditions.
The company, which has more than five million customers, made the announcement early on Friday (12 August), with the restrictions coming into effect from August 26.
Yorkshire Water’s director of water Neil Dewis said the prolonged heatwave conditions blasting the nation left the company with little other choice.
“Parts of Yorkshire have seen the lowest rainfall since our records began more than 130 years ago,” he said.
“The hot, dry, weather means that Yorkshire’s rivers are running low and our reservoirs are around 20% lower than we would expect for this time of year. We’ve been doing everything we can to avoid putting in restrictions but, unfortunately, they’re now necessary as part of our drought planning.
“We’ve been monitoring reservoir levels, weather forecasts and other environmental indicators closely to determine whether we might need to put further measures in place.
“As we’ve now reached that trigger point, we need to make sure that we have enough supply for the essential needs of people across the region this year and next, as well as making sure we’re able to protect our local environment by limiting the amount of water we have to draw from the rivers.
“Our decision to introduce a hosepipe ban is based on the risk that water stocks continue to fall in the coming weeks and the need to be cautious about clean water supplies and long-term river health.”
In a word, yes.
England and Wales will not get any rain until next week, but, even then, only showers are predicted.
Scotland will only get rainfall in Highland areas.
Meanwhile, Environment Secretary George Eustice has exerted political pressure on water companies to take action.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph on 7 August, he said he “strongly” urged firms to follow the examples of Southern Water, South East Water and Welsh Water in introducing bans.
He has since met with water company chief executives, who he said “reassured” him that “supplies remain resilient across the country”.
Industry body Water UK said: “Every company has a drought plan in place, agreed with the Ministers and the Environment Agency. These set out specific triggers for activating different levels of response (including hosepipe bans).
“[The] government decided that it should be up to water companies to take the final judgment on when each plan’s action triggers have been met.
“Companies are in constant dialogue with Defra and regulators on their position, as well as their forward forecasts, plans and actions.
“As we have seen this summer, companies are perfectly prepared to use restrictions to protect the environment where that becomes necessary.”
Water companies are also telling consumers to lower their usage, and revealed they have also been pouring water into rivers to support areas with low river flows.
It comes after the Environment Agency convened the ‘National Drought Group’ to discuss water supplies at the end of July 2022.
The group is made up of senior officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), water companies, the National Farmers’ Union, and several other countryside bodies.
While it did not officially categorise the UK as being in a drought, it said most of England is in a state of “prolonged dry weather” – the category below an official drought.
River flows, groundwater and reservoir levels are well below average in England for the time of year, with only the North West deemed to have acceptable water levels.
You can see whether or not there’s a hosepipe ban in your area by checking with your water supplier.
Water UK has itself suggested people turn off taps while brushing their teeth, use watering cans instead of garden hoses, and allow lawns to go brown.
The trade body is running a Water’s Worth Saving campaign that provides further tips on how people can reduce water usage.
You can see who provides your water by visiting the Water UK website’s postcode checker.
Given water companies only operate in certain areas, you are unable to switch suppliers.

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